Saturday, September 26, 2009

CONF 605: THE PLAN

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Starting over is so hard! Reading one too many 'how to plot' books & trying out Scrivener meant that when it came to writing word 1 of Chapter 1 yesterday (the previous 1,000 words long since abandoned), it took most of the day just untangling myself from myself.

One of the big problems of being self-employed, or self-unemployed in my case, is structuring the day. With writing it's so easy to fall into staring at the computer screen for hours, clicking backwards and forwards, literally wasting the day away. Because there's the need to get on with it, in my case to give this writing a novel business one last shot - to get up and do something else produces nothing but guilt. Yet to stay with it when you're still finding your way in is just misery. I start clicking between Twitter, Facebook, email et al wondering why I'm not more popular, why so and so hasn't replied/followed me, why I'm not as witty/funny as everybody else etc etc which is just the pits. NO MORE!

Finally got 500 words down yesterday and 500 this morning and I'm now on the way. The characters, setting and plot skeleton are all there. I'm going with Evan Marshall's Novel Writing 16 Steps to Success method of Action/Reaction section sheets, and my first 14 scenes are ready to go. I've also got one of the big 3 surprises, an evocative end setting and a theme. With the theme I'm following the advice of, I think it was Charles Palliser in his BBC writing course, who said, 'think very hard about what you want to say and then try not to say it.' And so I have my secret word which I will try not to say but will be there throughout, I hope not too obviously until the end or days after the end.

Despite yesterday's glums, am determined to enjoy it this time. I'm going to limit myself to 500 good words a day and get them done in the morning, finishing half way through a sentence and then leaving the rest of the day for things other than sitting at the computer screen. I'll print out as I go. Before each new scene I'll study the next action/reaction card ready for the following day. Oh good intentions and all, but still, will see.... Now I'm going to shut down the computer and go for a walk.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CONF 604: STARTING OVER AGAIN

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Have homed in on my favourite idea and now have a working title, a setting, 3 characters with names, agent approval and 1,000 words written.

Now what?

Steam ahead?

Plot?

Develop characters?

Downloading the Scrivener application was a good break, getting to know how it works and plodding through the tutorial. Recommended to me by The Writing Coach, Scrivener is a writer's software app that lets you store everything in one place, including web pages & stills and - oh, it does all sorts of clever things. My favourite so far is the split screen which lets you have not only different documents up but the same document up. For example, at the moment with my character profiles I'm cutting and pasting from all over the place onto one document but can reference it from two different places at the same time when I make corrections. ? Sorry if not sounding very clear, but it's very useful! They give you a free month's trial which only adds up by the day, as you use it, so there's no panic. If you write using a Mac, have a look.

Then I went to the library and got out a pile of How To books to have a look at their plotting advice. I've always written into a story before, finding it as I go. This time am quite keen to experiment with my style, going into the first person and having several different viewpoints. I'm also determined to go for a better first draft than I normally produce, shortening the daily wordcount to 500 maybe but making them 500 good words rather than 2000 of steam that needs severe editing later. Really severe editing later. I don't think I can bear to do that again.

At the moment am on Novel Writing, 16 Steps to Success by Evan Marshall, one of the better of the How To books I've come across, and Ted Hughes' Poetry in the Making - for children, and about poetry, so not much plotting advice but FAB.

'The one thing is, imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously as if you were working out mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic. If you do this you do not have to bother about commas or full-stops or that sort of thing. You do not look at the words either. You keep your eyes, your ears, your nose, your taste, your touch, your whole being on the thing you are turning into words. The minute you flinch, and take your mind off this thing, and begin to look at the words and worry about them... then your worry goes into them and they set about killing each other. So you keep going as long as you can, then look back and see what you have written. After a bit of practice, and after telling yourself a few times that you do not care how other people have written about this thing, this is the way you find it; and after telling yourself you are going to use any old word that comes into your head so long as it seems right at the moment of writing it down, you will surprise yourself. You will read back through what you have written and you will get a shock. You will have captured a spirit, a creature.' Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making, Faber 1967

Hmm, maybe I'll just dive in after all...

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

CONF 603: BLACKBIRD'S BACK

She's been gone for weeks but has just returned, a little worse for wear:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

CONF 602: IDENTITY

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August without a holiday in it anywhere was a new experience and I didn't like it much. I did have a week without writing though, and stayed away from the internet (mostly) which has cleared the mind if not the itchy feet.

I think my main frustration is identity. Am I a writer or am I not a writer? OK, full-time writer. Of which there are, as we all know, very, very few who earn their way. So it's not quite that. If writing was a sideline to the rest of my working life there'd be frustrations all over the place, of course there would, but not the bigger question of what I'm going to do with myself. As it is I'm neither one or the other. I haven't got the resources to write another book without a commission, not until I retire anyhow. What I am going to do is work intensively over the next few weeks firming up the characters and plot of the next novel. I shall send this to my agent with a one page synopsis and 3 sample chapters in mid-September, good time for October's Frankfurt Book Fair, and tie my fingers in knots once more.

On the wider subject of identity, was so pleased to see Lev Grossman's Wall Street Journal article on the future of the novel which has been doing the rounds of the authors on Twitter these past few days. At the moment am reading One Day by David Nicholls which is very contemporary, very, very funny and, if it had been written by a woman would without a doubt have a very different cover from the gorgeous, embossed, serious-looking clothback hardback and be on every supermarket shelf in the land.

The novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap. Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century.

From a hieratic, hermetic art object the novel is blooming into something more casual and open: a literature of pleasure. The critics will have to catch up. This new breed of novel resists interpretation, but not the way the Modernists did. These books require a different set of tools, and a basic belief that plot and literary intelligence aren't mutually exclusive.

In fact the true postmodern novel is here, hiding in plain sight. We just haven't noticed it because we're looking in the wrong aisle. We were trained—by the Modernists, who else—to expect a literary revolution to be a revolution of the avant-garde: typographically altered, grammatically shattered, rhetorically obscure. Difficult, in a word. This is different. It's a revolution from below, up from the supermarket racks.

Lev Grossman, Wall Street Journal, 29.8.09

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.